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Does Your Current Router Vendor Have You Over a Barrel?

headshot of Paul Momtahan

December 4, 2019
By Paul Momtahan
Director of Solutions Marketing

How Disaggregated Routers Help Break the Chains of Vendor Lock-in

Traditional network routers provide a monolithic package of hardware and software from a single vendor. While in the past this model has provided benefits like guaranteed hardware and software interoperability and a single point of contact for purchasing, service, and support, today it creates a number of challenges for network operators.

The significant vendor lock-in of proprietary, closed routers and the small number of router vendors result in limited pricing pressure and high costs. Innovation is dependent on the capabilities of the single selected vendor rather than an ecosystem, and network operators are prevented from leveraging different rates of hardware and software innovation, or selecting best-of-breed hardware and software, independently, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Traditional routing can result in suboptimal solutions

Network planners also face an unenviable choice when selecting a traditional router for a specific location in the network. Do they take the short-term approach of selecting a device optimized for the more immediate capacity requirements, which may need to be replaced as traffic and services evolve? Or do they select a larger device that will have a longer life, but suffer the short-term pain of high up-front CapEx and a large footprint for a partially filled chassis with initially underutilized fabrics and backplane?

Table 1: The traditional router selection dilemma

Disaggregated routing can address many of these limitations. By lowering the barriers to entry for both hardware and software vendors, disaggregation has the potential to significantly increase price competition. Disaggregated routing also enables network operators to optimally mix and match the best hardware and software for a given use case.

With at least 15 vendors currently providing multiple white boxes, and with at least 10 current network operating system (NOS) options, disaggregated routing provides an unprecedented level of choice with the flexibility to mix and match white boxes and NOSes to best match the requirements of a particular operator/use case, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: More choice = more optimal solutions

Innovation is key to driving down CapEx and OpEx, scaling performance, and enabling new services. The disaggregated router approach enables network operators to leverage the innovation capabilities of the entire ecosystem, selecting best-in-class vendors and upgrading based on the innovation cycle of each component of the disaggregated solution. As discussed previously, with reduced barriers to entry, new and smaller vendors will be able to compete, bringing their innovation capabilities to the market.

Figure 3: Multi-unit scaling: fabric-based

Disaggregated routing enables horizontal scaling, including stacking and, as shown in Figure 3, fabric-based multi-unit scaling. This enables capacity to be added very incrementally, as shown in Figure 4. With this approach, disaggregated routing can also address the capacity requirements of different parts of the network, all leveraging a very limited set of individual white boxes and a common NOS.

Figure 4: Cost-effective horizontal scaling

For more information on this important topic, see the Infinera white paper “The Case for Disaggregated Routing in 5G and DAA Transport Networks.”

The Case for Disaggregated Routers